Jack Pollock
Once, I risked my life for democracy. While I was living in Zimbabwe, I was asked to smuggle various manifestos and bomb-making instructions across the border into South Africa. A blond American doesn't raise much suspicion at border checks, I was told. In 1990, apartheid was crumbling, but the African National Congress, Nelson Mandela's group of terrorists-cum-political party, was still banned and hundreds were throwing down their lives to give the black majority voting rights.

The books were disguised as tour books and bird-watching guides with dummy jackets. Between the covers, however, were various political strategies and military blueprints--apparently the toolbox for democracy. Had I been caught it was certain jail time in an infamous (remember Steven Biko?) penal system.

Ironically, back in my home country, I wasn't even registered to vote. In fact, it wasn't until two years later that I even bothered to step into a polling place. It wasn't that I was apolitical, but running the border like a dope mule is a whole lot sexier than anonymously pulling a voting booth lever. Probably like rioting in Pioneer Square is much more fun than casting your vote into the sea of millions.

I know, I know. You've heard it before. Register to vote. Trust me, I'm on your side. Even as the News Editor at the Mercury, I only begrudgingly lug my ass into a voting station. What finally turned my head was an old news photo of a mousy English woman who died violently in 1913 for suffrage.

One overcast afternoon at Churchill Downs, the woman strolled onto the horse track as calmly as if walking through the Queen's gardens. She died instantly under a flurry of hooves. When race officials pulled open her fur coat, scrawled on her clothes were these words: "Let Women Vote."

Point being: Voting has to be a pretty big deal if an otherwise sane and polite woman is going to throw herself under the feet of charging horses. If it doesn't sway you that you and your immediate friends could have determined the results in the last election, where several seats in the Oregon legislature were won only by slim margins, well, then think about the thousands have died just so that you have the choice to sit on your ass, drink a latte and not bother to vote. Is it really that inconvenient?